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Facebook rolls out support for Indian languages on feature phone app

Facebook has added support for Hindi on its feature phone app, with plans to roll out support for seven more in the coming weeks.

Stuart Thomas: Senior Reporter
Stuart Thomas joined the Burn Media team in 2011 while finishing off an MA in South African Literature. Eager to prove his geek credentials, he allowed himself... More

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The languages include Gujarati, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Punjabi, Bengali and Marathi. The social networking giant has also added support for Vietnamese and Malay to the app.

The move is widely seen as a bid by Facebook to make deeper inroads into India’s 1.2-billion strong population.

According social stats site Social Bakers, India is already has the second biggest Facebook population on the planet, with just under 46-million users.

That only represents around 3.91% of India’s population, meaning that there is massive potential for growth, especially as more and more of the country comes online.

According to Times of India Facebook’s Country Growth Manager Kevin D’Souza said “With over 50 million people in India on Facebook, we want to make sure that everyone has a great Facebook mobile experience regardless of the device that they choose to use.”

Facebook’s Java Script app was launched in mid-2011 and is supported by 3 600 mobile phones. That makes it ideal for markets such as India where feature phones accounted for 94% of all sales in 2011.

Including the new languages on the feature phone app would likely make it more appealing to those who cannot access Facebook via PC where they are all already supported.

Other social players have also been trying to get a stronger grip on the country. Gujarati was among the new right to left languages Twitter recently added support for and it expanded its trending topics to cover five new Indian cities.

Google+ meanwhile struck a deal that gave Indian users free access to the service through a local Wi-Fi provider.

Although the online market in India expanding, it still represents a relatively small portion of the population. The latest Internet World Stats suggest that India’s internet population is sitting just north of the 121-million user mark.